The Nutrition and Sleep Connection

June 30, 2020

Quality sleep is crucial for good health.  Without it, biochemical reactions in the brain are altered and we cannot properly process information, make decisions, or act in the same way we would if we had a full night’s sleep. Sleeplessness can also lead to many health concerns including weight gain, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other issues.

Ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone, has been shown to increase due to lack of sleep, while at the same time, leptin, the satiety hormone, decreases. This imbalance often causes us to think we’re hungry even if we’re not and to choose foods that typically aren’t the healthiest.  Put this all together and it’s a recipe for poor health, increased disease risk, and continued poor sleep.

The good news is, there are several things we can do to prepare our bodies for a good night’s rest. Getting enough exercise during the day, turning off devices at least thirty minutes before bedtime, and incorporating the right foods at the right times are just a few keys to making a difference.

Foods to Eat

  • Incorporate foods naturally rich in melatonin at your evening meal. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.  Animal foods containing the highest amounts of melatonin are eggs and fish, while nuts are the highest melatonin-rich plant foods. Other great choices include:
    • Fruits: cherries, grapes, strawberries, kiwi, pomegranate
    • Vegetables: peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes
    • Whole grains: wheat, barley, oats, rice
    • Nuts: walnuts, almonds, and peanuts
    • Seeds: sunflower, mustard, flax
  • Consume foods with tryptophan at dinner. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is used to help make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps control sleep patterns. Good sources include:
    • Poultry, especially turkey and chicken
    • Salmon
    • Eggs
    • Spinach
    • Soy products
    • Seeds and Nuts
    • Milk
  • Milk is a particularly good choice before bed for several reasons. Studies show that the high level of tryptophan in milk is converted to both serotonin and melatonin, thus promoting relaxation and sleep. Milk is also chock full of casein, a long-lasting and sustained source of amino acids, which means it can enhance availability of amino acids throughout the night.
  • Including foods rich in vitamin B12 has also shown positive effects in aiding sleep. B12 increases the synthesis of melatonin as well as the number of receptors for it in the brain.  

While incorporating certain foods at the right time is important, avoiding those foods that can disrupt sleep is also key. Alcohol, caffeine, spicy and fat-laden foods eaten close to bedtime can wreak havoc on your restfulness. If you’ve been struggling with sleep, take a few of these tips and find healthy, natural ways to prepare your body for rest. Make sure to get enough exercise during the day and consume the right foods and beverages at the right times!

Want to know more about this or any other nutrition topic? Give Anne a call at 978-302-4768 and set up an appointment today!

2 Comments on “The Nutrition and Sleep Connection

  1. Pingback: The Nutrition and Sleep Connection — Nutrition Counseling, Coaching & Education | Remedies for Night Sweats and Insomnia

  2. Pingback: February is Heart Health Month – Nutrition Counseling, Coaching & Education

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